Who has the staying power to ride the bold new wave of creative (and tech) agencies?

Every so often there’s a rush of agency start-ups, it’s hard to say exactly why they happen as they do but it’s a pretty fair bet that many we’ll be seeing soon will occur because a lot of creative agency people find themselves at a (post-Covid) loose end.

One of the reasons for starting an agency is the hope that, somewhere along the line, you can sell it. The ad holding companies used to be the obvious choice (the ever-acquisitive WPP in the van even though there was the terrifying prospect of reporting to Martin Sorrell.) This isn’t the case much now as these companies retrench. But there are others potential buyers about: private equity, tech companies.

Some start-ups clearly have an eye on the latter. The new mantra is creativity and technology (not necessarily in that order.) Sorrell’s new S4 Capital, owner of MediaMonks and MightyHive) is already the template for some.

Here’s another new one: Bold White Space which says it will “leverage technology, data and creativity combined to drive better, faster and more efficient results as clients seek more for less in the years ahead.” Much like S4’s mantra. Founders are former Engine MHP head Mike Robb and Nick Ford-Young from content agency Studio Black Tomato (what is it about fruit?)

What catches the attention is the new venture’s chairman Simon Sherwood, a senior player at BBH in its glory years.

People like Sherwood pop up in all sorts of circumstances after making their name but Sherwood does have a certain credibility. But will these new, data and tech-inspired agencies actually succeed in re-writing the rule book?

The most notable newbie on the block is James Murphy, David Golding and Ian Heartfield’s New Commercial Arts. What these new commercial arts actually are remains to be seen but it seems pretty likely that they will will major on advertising, albeit in the context of other complementary skills. Wunderman Thompson’s former chief experience officer Robert Curran is one of the co-founders.

As people tiptoe nervously back to work in the office it will be interesting to see if we really are going to see a significant new agency wave in the UK and elsewhere.

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About Stephen Foster

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Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.